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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(4) by Samantha Young|
She was sitting next to Adam, who was squashed in beside Jo and Cam in the only available booth at the back of the room. Joss, Braden, Nate, and I were standing crowded around the table, and I was cursing myself for letting Jo talk me into the four-inch heels I was wearing.
Leaning into Braden, Joss replied, ‘Thanks for the reminder. I’ll have to brace myself against Pauline’s caustic remarks.’
Cam frowned. ‘Why did you buy a dress from this woman if she’s such a cow?’
‘The dress,’ Jo, Ellie, and I answered in unison.
After having been in Edinburgh for only three months, I was honored when Joss asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Her university friend Rhian had come up from London for the weekend, and we’d all gone on the hunt for Joss’s dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses. After a few arguments with Ellie regarding color, Joss had settled on champagne for her girls. We’d ended up in this bridal store in New Town where the owner, Pauline, made scathing remarks about our lack or overabundance of assets.
We were too busty, too flat, too skinny, or too fat …
We were about to head out of there when Joss stepped out in a dress the bitch had recommended and Ellie burst into tears.
Yup, it was that beautiful.
Clearly, Pauline knew how to dress brides – she just didn’t know how the hell to talk to them. Or to people in general, for that matter. I’m not exactly the most confident person, and have more than my fair share of insecurities regarding my body, so I came away from that store feeling like a heifer of giant proportions. Thank you, Pauline.
Joss laughed and looked up into Braden’s face. ‘Apparently the dress is good.’
‘I’m getting that,’ he murmured. ‘Still, I’m more looking forward to taking it off you than anything else that day.’
‘Braden,’ Ellie bemoaned, ‘not in front of me.’
‘Stop kissing Adam in front of me and I’ll stop making sexual comments to my wife in front of you.’
‘She’s not your wife yet,’ Nate reminded him. ‘No need to rush it.’
I snorted. ‘Nate, your commitment phobia is showing again.’
He turned to me in mock horror. ‘Where?’ He patted his cheeks anxiously. ‘Get it off me.’
Brushing my thumb across an imaginary speck on his cheekbone, I reassured him. ‘There it is. All gone.’
‘Phew.’ He took a swig of his lager and looked toward the bar. ‘I’ll never get laid with that thing on show.’
‘Charming,’ I murmured.
He grinned cheekily at me and nodded toward a group of women standing at the bar. ‘Duty calls.’
He sauntered casually across the room and came to a stop beside a girl standing with her friends. The friends shimmied to the side as Nate and the girl began flirting their asses off. The girl was gorgeous, of course – beautiful features, long dark hair, creamy skin, extremely curvy. Probably a little overweight, like me, but unlike me, she carried it well. I had to say that about Nate. He didn’t really have a type – he didn’t care if the girl was skinny, plump, busty, or athletic. As long as she was cute and a woman, he was attracted to her.
As soon as Nate smiled at the brunette she was a goner.
I wasn’t surprised in the least. At five foot eleven, Nate wasn’t exceptionally tall, but with his combination of a trim physique honed by martial arts, a gorgeous face, and the kind of charisma you just couldn’t buy, most women wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if they towered over him in heels if it meant being on his arm for the night.
Not me, though. Nate would never see me in a sexual way, so there was no point in even allowing my thoughts to go there. I think I knew more about the real Nate than most people did, so it wasn’t hard to put him in the friend zone. I could switch off whatever attraction I had to him because I knew it would never go anywhere. I’d rather have Nate in my life as a friend than not have him there at all. For all of his commitment issues and the unashamedly playboy mentality toward women, he was a really good guy underneath it all, and a really good friend.
‘Well, she’s a goner,’ Joss commented softly.
Turning toward her, I raised an eyebrow when I saw her smirking at Nate and the girl. ‘He never makes them any promises.’
She laughed. ‘No need to defend him. I know Nate always makes himself clear, but we’re talking girls here. Sometimes they just hear what they want to hear.’
‘Yeah, but Nate’s got this down to an art. It’s like a sixth sense or something. As soon as he feels even a slight change in their attitude toward him, he’s out of there.’
‘I can’t wait for someone to knock him on his arse,’ Ellie joined in, smiling wickedly in Nate’s direction.
‘Me neither.’ Jo flicked a pointed glance up at me before looking away, and I pretended I was too stupid to understand her meaning.
I changed the subject quickly. ‘Did you guys see Cam’s new tattoo? Cole designed it,’ I told them proudly.
Cole Walker was the best kid ever. Jo had done an amazing job raising him and the best thing that had ever happened to the both of them, other than each other, was Cameron MacCabe. He and Cole were incredibly similar – both artists, both cool nerds – and Cam had commissioned Cole to design a new tattoo for him.
It was awesome.
A stylized ‘C’ and ‘J’ were hidden in the jagged vines and sharpened curlicues of Cole’s tribal design.
‘Ooh, let’s see,’ Ellie begged with a grin.
Cam shook his head. ‘It’s on my ribs.’
‘Oh, come on, it’s not like we’re going to pass out at the sight of your abs,’ Joss teased.
‘They’re good abs.’ Jo patted Cam’s stomach proudly.
Braden took a sip of his whisky. ‘Personally, I don’t want to see his abs. They might … provoke my envy.’
Adam nodded in deadpan agreement. ‘Mine too.’
‘Fuck off,’ Cam muttered, his lips curled up in amusement.
‘Oh, if he’s going to be such a spoilsport …,’ I grumbled, digging through my handbag. Feeling the paper between my fingers, I tugged and pulled it out, unfolding it to hold up the signed drawing of Cole’s design. ‘Here, this is the tat.’
As the others looked at it, Jo smiled up at me. ‘You’re keeping that?’